Can DT Swiss take on Fox and RockShox with its F 535 ONE trail/enduro fork?
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DT Swiss F 535 ONE Dt swiss br_forks BR1040 2,160g
Not the best for heavy-hitting, but one of the smoothest and most supple for milder applications
Pros: Excellent small-bump sensitivity; loads of comfort and traction over small, high-frequency bumps; DT’s online setup guide is one of the best; calm, supportive, well-damped feel over slow and steep terrain
Cons: Flex causes a jarring, wayward ride when ridden hard through rough, hardpack tracks; heavy for an enduro fork, and very heavy considering the flex makes it behave like a trail fork; using the tool housed in the axle to make all adjustments soon became tiresome
DT Swiss has been making forks for years, but so far nothing like this. The F 535 is designed to compete head-on with the big manufacturers such as Fox and RockShox for a slice of the trail/enduro fork market. In fact, it’s the only fork I’ve tested so far that comes close to matching the big two brands.
Available with 130–160mm of travel, it’s aimed more at the trail market than many of the enduro forks I’ve tested. However, at 2,160g it is heavy even by enduro fork standards.
The fork looks sleek with its covered-up crown, but you’ll need the T10 Torx tool housed in the axle to adjust air pressure, as well as compression or rebound damping.
As a frequent fettler, I found this frustrating, and I managed to lose the tool at one point. The cable clamp and included mudguard are fiddly to install too and the latter offers little mud protection.
It’s what’s inside the fork that counts, though. Unusually, the damper features a position-sensitive valve, which makes the compression damping gradually firmer the further into the travel you get. This makes the fork suppler in the beginning stroke, while building damping support as you get deeper into the travel.
In the other leg, the spring features a self-equalising air spring which is tuneable with volume spacers (like you’d get in most Fox or RockShox forks) with an additional little coil spring on the end.
This coil spring allows the fork to move before the bump force becomes high enough to overcome friction in the air spring. Once the coil spring has compressed sufficiently, the air spring friction is overcome and the air spring deals with the rest of the travel. According to DT Swiss, the mini coil spring allows the fork to change direction and start moving sooner, thereby increasing comfort and traction.
It’s worth pointing out that if you wanted to change the travel in your F 535, you’d need to swap the damper as well as the spring, because the damper is travel-specific.
This fork was tested as part of a group test including ten of the best enduro forks. All forks were tested back-to-back on the same tracks, keeping all other variables as consistent as possible to ensure my findings are as reliable and accurate as they can be.
DT Swiss F 535 ONE fork setup
DT Swiss F 535 ONESteve Behr
DT’s online set-up guide makes tuning straightforward. For my weight (86kg) it recommended 92psi for “performance -orientated” riding, resulting in 22 percent sag.
After experimenting either way, I found this was spot on. It also recommended keeping the compression damping fully open, which I felt no benefit to changing. However, I did have to open the rebound from the base setting to sustain suppleness through high-frequency bumps.
DT Swiss F 535 ONE fork performance
On steep terrain with rocky steps and holes, you can really feel the damping hold you up in the travel. There’s plenty of low-speed support and a calm, composed feel through slow technical sections. Yet it hoovers up small stones and wrist-sized roots with fantastic comfort, minimal feedback and loads of grip thanks to a softly-damped and softly-sprung beginning of the stroke.
This could be due to the clever damper or spring, but I suspect the F 535’s flexy chassis may improve comfort and traction too in small-bump situations.
But on fast tracks with big bumps, the flex becomes problematic. Even with the compression fully open, there’s a fair bit of jarring feedback when slamming into bigger bumps.
When loaded up hard into pitted turns, it becomes slightly wayward and unpredictable; it occasionally loses traction and is deflected wide where the best forks tracked more authoritatively. I tried dropping air pressure to ease the occasional harshness, but this caused the fork to lack support and bottom-out hard.
Ultimately there’s no way to get around this lack of stiffness when riding hard through burly terrain; it causes the fork to deflect and bind up, which makes it feel harsh and unpredictable.
Having said that, shorter travel and 27.5in models will be less affected by flex. It’s only when ridden aggressively over rough, hardpack terrain that the flex becomes problematic, and in some situations, it may even be a benefit.
How does it compare to its main rivals?
Over small, high-frequency bumps, the F 535 is the comfiest I’ve tested, and over milder terrain it’s one of the very best.
But when faced with bigger bumps, there’s noticeably more feedback and less predictability than the best enduro forks from Fox and RockShox, and that includes the more wallet-friendly Marzocchi Z1 and RockShox Yari.
It’s among the best of the rest though, especially for lighter riders or those who value comfort and grip most.
DT Swiss F 535 ONE fork options
27.5in: 130, 140, 150, 160mm
29in: 130, 140, 150, 160mm (tested)
This video shows how I tested the forks and how they compare.
Seb's been riding and racing mountain bikes for half his life. Since getting hooked on mountain bikes aged thirteen riding a tiny 24Seven Crosser, he's raced downhill, enduro and cross country, and while no athlete, still enters the occasional race. Seb studied experimental physics at university, and he's now happily using (wasting) his degree experimenting with different bike setups, trying to work out what works best and why. You'll often find him riding the same track ten times in a day, changing just one thing to pin down the differences. Seb's much happier back-to-back testing suspension on a wet Welsh hillside than riding the latest five-figure bikes on some sunny press trip - although he quite likes that too!